Sometimes it’s hard to identify why a movie star goes out of fashion. In the case of Burt Reynolds, pinpointing the reasons for his decline from a decade-long reign among of the world’s top box-office attractions is fairly easy. Setting aside offscreen issues, Reynolds simultaneously frustrated and patronized the public’s appetites. In pictures like Rough Cut, a wannabe sophisticated heist thriller in the mode of old Cary Grant movies, Reynolds plays against type to desultory effect. And in pictures like his other 1980 release, Smokey and the Bandit II, Reynolds halfheartedly repeats the highlights of previous good-ole-boy flicks. It wasn’t as if Reynolds had lost his mojo—witness his fantastic work as director and star of the 1981 cop thriller Sharky’s Machine—but rather that he’d become wildly inconsistent. In the business of selling brand-name actors, consistency is king. Anyway, if it sounds as if these remarks about Rough Cut pertain to everything but the actual movie, there’s a reason. Dull, forgettable, and vapid, the movie is the wreckage left over from a troubled cycle of development and production. Based on a novel by Derek Lambert and adapted by the great Larry Gelbart (who was rewritten and can therefore remain somewhat blameless), the picture concerns a gentleman thief named Jack Rhodes (Reynolds). While prowling Europe, Jack meets a beautiful fellow thief named Gilliam Bromley (Lesley-Anne Down), so they join forces to plan a $30 million jewel heist. Naturally, they also become a couple. Hot on Jack’s heels is his longtime adversary, British detective Cyril Willis (David Niven). Also present are Jack’s eccentric co-conspirators, including ex-Nazi Ernst Meuller (Patrick Magee). While Niven provides occasional pith, Reynolds is miscast and unengaged, while Down is merely ornamental. Boring, trite, and unimaginative, Rough Cut features all the heist-movie clichés that had been destroyed by the Pink Panther movies, and director Don Siegel (who replaced Peter Hunt partway through production) doesn’t create anything approaching the desired level of Hitchcockian playfulness.
Rough Cut: LAME